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Why was the famous Nalanda University burnt?

Nalanda University was a Buddhist institution of higher learning in ancient India, which flourished between the 5th and 12th centuries CE. It was located in the present-day state of Bihar, India and was a major center of Buddhist learning and culture. The university attracted scholars and students from all over Asia and was known for its high standards of teaching and research.

Nalanda University was known for its study of a wide range of subjects including Buddhism, Hinduism, logic, grammar, medicine, and mathematics. It is also said to have had a large library and many distinguished scholars. The ruins of Nalanda university are now a UNESCO World Heritage site and it’s considered as one of the most ancient universities in the world.

According to the records Nalanda University was destroyed three times by invaders, but rebuilt only twice.

The first destruction was caused by the Huns under Mihirakula during the reign of Skandagupta (455–467 AD). But Skanda’s successors restored the library and improved it with an even bigger building

The second destruction came in the early 7th century by the Gaudas. This time, the Buddhist king Harshavardhana (606–648 AD) restored the university

Ruins of the University Image Source

The third and most destructive attack came when the ancient Nalanda University was destroyed by the Muslim army led by the Turkish leader Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1193. According to historical accounts, Khilji and his army invaded the university and set fire to its buildings, destroying the library and killing the scholars and monks who were living there. The burning of Nalanda is said to have been a particularly brutal and violent event, with the invaders slaughtering the inhabitants and destroying the vast collection of books and manuscripts that the university had amassed over the centuries. The reason for the attack is said to be the desire of control over the trade routes and also the wealth of the university. The burning of Nalanda is considered a significant loss of knowledge and culture, not only for India, but for the entire world.

Bakhtiyar Khilji – Image Source

According to the story, Khilji was suffering from an illness and was advised to seek treatment from the principal of Nalanda University, Rahul Sri Bhadra. Despite his initial reluctance to seek treatment from someone outside his culture, he ultimately agreed and was cured by Bhadra without the use of medicine. This reportedly upset Khilji, and he decided to destroy the sources of knowledge, Buddhism and Ayurveda, in the country by burning down the library of Nalanda. The library was said to be vast and it took three months to completely destroy it. Additionally, the Turkish invaders were also said to have killed monks and scholars in the university.

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